What formats are most effective for storytelling?

“What formats do you find the most effective for storytelling – social, blogs…?” This was a question Mumpreneurs Club asked me on Twitter this week after reading my article What Is Business Storytelling? As I started figuring out how to cram my answer into 280 characters, I thought I should write a blog post on it as it’s a question which comes up a lot. There are two sides to finding the most effective format for telling your stories: what works for you and what works for your perfect customer. 

Finding a format where you can tell stories consistently

Does it feel like other companies seem to be doing every kind of content marketing going? Everyone seems to be doing video. You’ve been told more than 80% of internet traffic will be video-based by 2021. People are ‘going live’. And then there are podcasts. Should you start a podcast? You’re running from one social media platform to another trying to cover all bases. 

You probably feel like this:

The best platform to tell stories on is the one you enjoy and find most intuitive. 

If you like hitting the record button on your smartphone and making videos of your work or telling people stories about it then that’s the platform for you. Video is a very flexible medium. You can upload to Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even LinkedIn. Make it once and then choose the most appropriate place for your audience to see it.

But what if you would rather go to the dentist than record a video? Does that mean you can’t tell stories and your marketing efforts aren’t going to be as good? No. 

You can write stories on your blog or on social media. You have plenty of space in a Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram post. (Top tip: write your story outside the app and then copy and paste it in so you don’t lose it.) If you want to post a long article on LinkedIn you can use its publishing platform Pulse.  

Stories don’t have to be long. Here’s one in less than 280 characters by one of my favourite writers, Jeff Goins.

It is vital that you genuinely enjoy the way you choose to tell stories. Whether you write, draw, record video or audio, use photography, whatever sparks your creativity, make it something you like doing or you will find it a chore and it won’t get done.

Choosing a format that works for your customers

It’s important you enjoy sharing your stories. You also need to choose a format which works for the people who you want to read, see or hear them.

  • Are your customers coming to your website?
  • Are they on a particular social media platform? You don’t need to be on every one. Look at who your perfect customer is and think about which social media platform they are likely to click on first every day.
  • Do they read blogs?
  • Or listen to podcasts?
  • Are they visual learners?

If you find that your customer loves video but you prefer writing or they want to read but you are happier talking, fear not. There are some simple workarounds to make the content you enjoy creating appeal to the people who you want to engage with it.

Platform switching hacks

If you have written a story but would like to turn it into a video then take a look at Lumen5. This takes your words and creates social video using stock photos. 

It automatically creates videos from my blog posts which I can resize for the social media platform of my choice.

Here are the options for Facebook, for example. As you can see, I can create a version of the same story for all the different formats. Perfect for testing which type of post works well with your audience.

Ta-da! Social video! Here is one created from the blog I wrote last week Do your customers see things the same way as you? which I have put on Youtube.

If you’ve recorded a great video but need to turn it into an article, you can use a transcription service, such as Rev.com.

You might want to dictate an article rather than typing it. In which case you can use a tool like Otter.ai which will type out your words as you say them.

Use the platform you have readily available

You want people to hear your stories. Choose a platform where they are easily accessible. 

This could be:

  • An A-board outside your shop
  • A chalkboard behind the counter in your shop/cafe/restaurant
  • Talking to people at networking events. You’ll never be stuck for something to say if you have a story you can share.
  • Your company vehicle
  • Your packaging
  • A note you send out with each order

It can even be on a coffee mug.

Stories can be about you, your business or ones your customers need to hear. 

The key thing is to focus on your reader (or listener/viewer).

Rachel Extance

The key to good storytelling

Your story needs to resonate with your audience. They have to relate to it and feel an emotional connection.

If your audience drinks tea or coffee and they work in a creative industry then the coffee mug pictured above will tell a story they need to hear. 

If you’re an independent business then telling a story from your day or about the origin of your products or services is likely to resonate with your ideal customers. They want to get to know you. 

Don’t forget to put your name on your story. Sign it. On social media people can see your avatar and your name. When you go into a boutique or buy from a local store you really like, wouldn’t you like to know the name of the person who is giving you a great experience? When you’ve written a story on your A-board, pop your name at the bottom. 

Tell a story with your brand

Stories don’t have to spoken. They can be told through your actions and the way you present things.

You can tell a story through your brand colours.

Use your shop window to create a display which appeals your ideal customers’ idea of how they want their world to be.

Your values tell a story. What matters to you when sourcing suppliers or the way you work?

You can also tell a story with your company’s approach. Are you fun? Are you serious? Are you fanatical about choosing the best in your niche?

Show people your story and invite them to become part of it.

You are best placed to tell your stories

Tell your stories wherever you meet people. It can be online or offline. You can be in the audience or up on stage. It can be a 15 second video clip or a 3000 word article.

Experiment with different formats. Take inspiration people and brands you love. 

Above all, be yourself. Everyone has a story to tell and people need to hear yours.

Rachel Extance (photo by Jemima Willcox)

Rachel Extance helps business tell their stories so they can reach a wider audience for their work and ideas. A professional journalist, she knows how to write stories people find relevant and engaging. If you would like help to get your message across, need someone who can write articles for you regularly, or you would like actionable ideas for how to tell more people about what you do, get in touch.

3 thoughts on “What formats are most effective for storytelling?”

  1. Great article, Rachel. I was drawn to reading it as I told a story at a charity event over the weekend and I’ve got storytelling front of mind at the moment. It is so powerful.

    Thanks for writing this. There’s such a wealth of information in this including strategic considerations right down to the practical suggestions of apps to use to do this. You’ve given me some ideas of things I can do with my own storytelling.

  2. Rachel, loved reading this article, it’s full of great insights and examples! I love how you said you can do storytelling in other ways like your brand colors and displays, that your values tell your brand story. And the final takeaway, you can express your brand yourself, in person when you meet people was perfect. Excellent article!

  3. Hey Rachel! What an excellent topic. We all know by now we need to tell stories, but knowing what kind to tell and when is a huge factor! I love that you address stories from as small as Tweets to as large as presentations. The examples you provide are great in selling your main points and giving me the reader some inspiration. I would love for you to keep sharing content on this topic…Once you pick your story, what content topics work best for each platform? How does the audience change? What platforms work best for different business types? There’s much to explore!

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